by Charles C. W. Cooke
KGW News has identified the Oregon shooter. He was just 15 years old.
What does this mean for our public policy? Well, pretty much nothing. Despite all of the chatter from the White House and beyond, “universal background checks” have absolutely nothing to do with this case. In Oregon, 15-year-olds are not allowed to purchase firearms of any sort – whether from stores or from private sources. Last year’s Toomey-Manchin proposal, which would have mandated checks for all private sales, would therefore not have applied to this case and could not have stopped this shooting. To pretend otherwise is downright dishonest.
We also know that the shooter broke a number of other laws. Reports have suggested that he used a “rifle.” But in Oregon, one is not allowed to “possess” a long gun until one is 18. The killer wasn’t 18.
The statutes lay out one exception to this rule:
Other than a handgun, if the firearm was transferred to the minor by the minors parent or guardian or by another person with the consent of the minors parent or guardian;
His parents did not transfer the firearm to him. Instead, he took it from his home without permission. In consequence, he was breaking the law. Further, he was prohibited from carrying a rifle with him in public, and from taking it into his school. He did both in violation of the law. And, obviously, he was not allowed to fire it at people or to kill them. He did both. In violation of the law.
Per police, he had an “unused handgun” on him, too. Oregon law explicitly prohibits minors from possessing handguns, with no carve-out for parental consent. Naturally, being 15, he was also barred from carrying it on his person without a permit (these aren’t available for those under 18), and from taking it into his school. He did both anyway.
Literally nothing the shooter did was legal. Literally nothing that he did could have been addressed or prevented by the legislation that came up for a vote last year. One can certainly make the case that he should not have had access to the firearms in the first place — perhaps you think his parents should have been more careful, or that they shouldn’t be allowed to have guns at all, or that the AR-15 that was allegedly used shouldn’t be for sale – but one can not tie this shooting to the failure of Toomey-Manchin.
Naturally, this didn’t stop local politicians from doing exactly that. Congressman Earl Blumenauer tweeted early Tuesday afternoon, “Another shooting. I always hope tragedy will inspire action. Simple common sense steps make difference. Start w/universal background checks.”
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Charles C. W. Cooke is a writer at National Review.